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Apartment of Walter Kaesbach (?-1914)

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Erich Heckel, Beim Vorlesen, 1913/14, Brücke-Museum, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2023

Erich Heckel, Beim Vorlesen, 1914, Brücke-Museum, Karl und Emy Schmidt-Rottluff Stiftung, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2023

“In Berlin, I lived in a double flat in Brückenallee, right next to the Großer Stern. From my window I could see Bellevue Park. There was a concealed door between the two flats. When I had guests, they used one flat and I had my own flat.”

Walter Kaesbach in conversation with the art dealer Roman Norbert Ketterer, 1959

In the Hansaviertel today, there are barely any remaining traces of the once distinguished imperial-era neighbourhood that stood there, not even the road layout. While a completely new district, characterised by post-war modernist buildings, has been steadily growing here since the 1950s, it was once the site of magnificent townhouses until they were completely destroyed in the Second World War. The former neighbourhood was upmarket: it was home to bankers, factory owners, independently wealthy people, entrepreneurs and their families, but also the art historian Walter Kaesbach. He became assistant to Ludwig Justi, director of the Neue Nationalgalerie, in 1909, and met Erich Heckel during his work in 1912. It was the beginning of a lively exchange and an intense, lifelong friendship marked by regular visits to each other.

In addition to their passion for art, Heckel and Kaesbach both shared an enthusiasm for literature. Even as a schoolboy, Heckel was a member of a reading club and tried his hand at writing. Later he incorporated literary motifs into his works. What was most important to him, however, was to enjoy literature together with friends: for him, reading was a communal, even celebratory experience that should be shared.

Former Brückenallee 4, Photo: Georg Büxenstein & Comp., Berlin, ZLB 

In the period leading up the First World War, Erich Heckel, his future wife Sidi Riha, and Walter Kaesbach would regularly spend evenings together reading. The venue for these pleasurable meetings was usually Kaesbach’s spacious double flat on Brückenallee, from which they enjoyed a magnificent view of the greenery in the adjacent park surrounding Bellevue Palace. The particular significance of these reading evenings for Heckel is also demonstrated by the fact that they featured in several of his works from 1914.

Given that Kaesbach was a lifelong supporter of modern art, it is a remarkable stroke of coincidence, that the site of his former home now is occupied by the Akademie der Künste, which was designed by Werner Düttmann, the same architect who built the Brücke-Museum.

Valentina Bay

Erich Heckel, Lesender, 1914, Brücke-Museum, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2023

Erich Heckel, Beim Vorlesen, 1914, Brücke-Museum, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2023

Explore Berlin through the Eyes of the Brücke Artists